It so happened that on the eighth day of birth gave me a children’s encyclopedia about everything and a children’s Bible. I read both books, but the encyclopedia I liked, because there were dinosaurs and the Bible. Just at that time I didn’t part with her favorite toy – little t Rex so I could not understand where were Adam and eve when the Earth roamed by dinosaurs (which then died). In fact, similar questions children when they hear about giant lizards that inhabited our planet 65 million years ago. Adults, of course, also want to know the answers to these and other questions, but this is not the first century the best minds of the planet are trying to come to a consensus on whether science can replace religion, and if so, why not. It is not surprising that the “eternal” conflict between science and religion has generated a lot of debate not only among scientists, theologians and priests, but also between them. Considering the sensitive nature of the topic, in this article we consider the question of replacement by science of religion… from the point of view of science. Well, shall we go?
In 1966, a little over 50 years ago, the eminent canadian anthropologist Anthony Wallace confidently predicted the global death of religion at the hands of emerging science:
The belief in supernatural powers is doomed to extinction all over the world as a result of the increasing adequacy and diffusion of scientific knowledge.
Opinion Wallace was not exceptional. On the contrary, contemporary social science, which emerged in Western Europe of the XIX century took as a universal model of your own recent historical experience of secularization. Let me remind you that secularization is a process in which the role of religion in society is gradually decreasing. In the past in the social Sciences was the idea that all cultures will eventually come to something like secular, Western, liberal democracy. But then there was something close to the opposite.Secularism was not able to continue the global procession on a planet, and the different countries, such as Iran, India, Israel, Algeria, and Turkey have either replaced their secular government, religious, or witnessed rise of religious nationalist movements. Secularization has failed. But why?
As he writes in his article in Aeon Peter Harrison, author of “the Territories of science and religion” The Territories of Science and Religion and editor of Narratives of Secularization, the reason probably lies in the active imposition of secularism, as for example occurred in India and Turkey, where secularism has harmed science.
The first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru advocated a secular and scientific ideals and included science education in the modernization project. Nehru was convinced that Hindu ideas about the Vedic past and Muslim dream of an Islamic theocracy will take the path of secularization. “In time there is only one-way traffic” — he said. But as clearly evidenced by the subsequent rise of Hindu and Islamic fundamentalism, Nehru was wrong. Moreover, the Association of science and secularization led to the opposite results and science has become a “collateral victim” resistance to secularism.
Turkey is even more revealing example. Like most of the pioneers of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, was a staunch secularist. Ataturk believed that science was destined to supplant religion. To make sure that Turkey is on the right historical path he took to science, particularly evolutionary biology, the Central place in the public education system of the young Turkish Republic. As a result, the evolution has become synonymous with the entire political agenda of Ataturk, including secularism.
Islamist parties in Turkey, trying to resist the secularist ideals of the founders of the nation, also attacked the doctrine of evolution. For them evolution is associated with secular humanism. The culmination of this sentiment was adopted in June 2019 the decision to remove teaching of evolution from the school curriculum. Nothing like?
Secular humanism is opposed to the religious world, does not recognize the existence of supernatural power above man and nature.
Science vs religion
Contrary to the expectations of academics and intellectuals, the spread of modern science has not led to secularization, and science and the scientific method did not stand at the head of most societies. Unfortunately, we ended up in that future, which many warned. So, in 1997, the astronomer Carl Sagan in his book “the World is full of demons, science as a candle in the dark” wrote that at first glance seemingly innocent enthusiasm of a religious, esoteric, astrological and other practices and trends, to pose a danger to the future of humanity.
In many Western countries, the continuing decline of religious beliefs. For example, the last census in Australia showed that 30% of the population does not belong to any of the existing religions, and this percentage continues to grow. In 2018, the Guardian published a fascinating article titled “Christianity is no more?”, in which the data of sociological surveys of religiosity in Europe. The results showed that the number of young people who do not belong to any of the existing religions continues to grow.
Moreover, the survey found that the least religious country in Europe is the Czech Republic – 91% of respondents in the age group 16-29 years do not belong to any religion. 70% and 80% of the young population of Estonia, Sweden and the Netherlands also characterize themselves as non-religious. And the most religious country in Europe was Poland, where only 17% of young people stated its not religiosity, followed by Lithuania, where the atheistic worldview adhere to 25%.
But there are a lot of scenarios. So, according to Steven Bullivant from St. Mary’s University in London, countries that are next to each other, with similar cultural characteristics and history, have different religious profiles. And yet on a global scale the total number of people who consider themselves religious remain high, but demographic trends suggest that in the near future the world will face with the rise of religiosity.
So, Christians four decades will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other of the major religions. According to the research center the Pew Research Center, these trends will last to 2050. Moreover, atheists, agnostics and all who do not consider themselves to any of the existing denominations, will be more in countries such as the US and France, but in the total volume of the Earth’s inhabitants, their number will decrease. All projections are based on the scope and geographical spread of major world religions, data on fertility and mortality, age differences, migration, etc.
According to projections by the Pew Research Center, by 2050 the number of Muslims (2.8 billion or 30% of the population) will be almost equal to the number of Christians (2.9 billion or 31%), perhaps for the first time in history.
The roots of religion
If you think about it, each of us has a favorite theory about how has a religion, where it came from and why it is present in all human societies. Of course, religion unites, soothes, satisfies a thirst for knowledge and gives meaning to life. However, to consider religion as something separate from the evolution of Homo Sapiens would be wrong.
As he writes in his book “the God delusion,” evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, from the point of view of the evolutionist, religious rituals as conspicuous as a peacock’s tail on a sun-drenched meadow. When first considering the peacock’s tail seems to be empty fun, which does not increase his chances of survival. However, the owner of the most magnificent tail among peacocks spreading their genes, unlike competitors. The tail is advertising, its existence is evolutionary justified, as it attracts females.
The same can be said about the time and effort that you spend birds salatniki for the construction of the hut.; the building is a kind of “tail”, which is made of twigs, bright colors, beads and trinkets that could find. The main goal of this project is to attract a mate. In both cases, if the birds don’t behave, their chances of transmitting their genes would be reduced.
Religious behavior, says Dawkins, is the human equivalent of building the shed. It spent a lot of time and energy, and his expression become no less bizarre than the plumage of birds of Paradise. Because of religion the life of believers and others may be in danger. History shows that thousands of people were persecuted and torture, and generally absorbed the religion of the resources are enormous.
But religion is more than a kind of “guarantee” of passing on genes. From the point of view of evolution, the use of religion is the protection of people from diseases associated with stress. It’s like the placebo effect, about which I wrote in a previous article.
A more detailed picture of the reasons for the emergence and prevalence of religions describes in his book “” Pascal Boyer, a French evolutionary psychologist, social and cultural anthropologist. He examines in detail every common (and not only) the hypothesis about the necessity of religion, its emergence and spread. If you try to convey the basic idea in three words, religion – more precisely, magical thinking – accompanied humanity throughout its history. Our brains are seemingly hardwired to believe in supernatural and seek simple answers to complex questions.
It is also important to understand that you can’t just “get rid” of religion and religious practices. According to Professor of Stanford University, neuroendocrinology Robert Sapolsky, ritual practices, from ceremonies to the cross, similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Agree, not so unexpected comparison.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead to the emergence of obsessive (compulsive) behavior. Those suffering from OCD appear rituals, such as constant hand washing or shifting things in a certain order.
Given the genetic, cultural and evolutionary preconditions for the emergence and survival of religions throughout the history of mankind, to take and simply erase religion from society will not work. By the way, better than others this was demonstrated by the Soviet Union, declaring religion and the Church outlawed. Communist ideology and the cult of personality of Lenin and Stalin was to take the place of religion. However, after the collapse of the USSR, the country seemed to have captured the obscurantism: faith in God (and disbelief) has been successfully combined with astrology, magic, and “charged” from the sessions Kashpirovsky on TV water. That was the result we see today: the Union of Church and state led to the emergence of the law on protection of feelings of believers.
But that science opposes religious magical thinking? Given that applying the scientific method we put a man on the moon, invented the computer, Internet, built a real civilization, it may seem that religion and truth must retreat and in some countries this is happening. Moreover, many scholars and intellectuals remain convinced that the development of society will sooner or later bring all countries to a secular system of government. Among them Stephen Hawking, who believed that “science will win because it works”; Sam Harris is confident that “science must destroy religion”; Steven Weinberg believes that science has weakened religious confidence and many other figures of science and art predicted that science would eventually make religion unnecessary.
The future of science and religion
But why science and religion conflict? Can’t we separate these two concepts and do not mix them? After all, objective truth exists regardless of our religious beliefs. You can “not believe” in the theory of evolution, but it still doesn’t change the fact that man evolved from apes. Anyway, religious belief is a very complicated issue, both from the point of view of society, and from the point of view of science, evolutionary biology and brain development.
I think each person has to decide for himself what and how to believe and whether to believe at all. It is very important point is the right choice: people should know that you can believe in Yahweh, Buddha, Zeus, Odin, and more than 2000 of the gods known to mankind, and you can not believe in anyone of them. Maybe it doesn’t have to be afraid of the unknown? Yes, a huge number of questions today no answers, but this does not mean that they do not need to search or replace is false. What do you think about this? Whether the world is more religious or Vice versa? Share your response in the comments to this article and take part in our Telegram chat to discuss this and other equally interesting topics.
Also, the experience of some countries, such as Finland, the Czech Republic and Sweden shows that the key to secularization are several factors: the education system (in Finland the best education system in the world), access to information, freedom of speech, conscience and religion lead the society to prosperity. No wonder that in these countries, the representatives of different confessions well, attend churches and mosques and live in your pleasure. I think this is largely the result of education – no one in Finland, Czech Republic and Sweden had not thought to forbid the study of the theory of evolution in school. And to finish this article I want quotes that reflect different points of view about the “eternal conflict”:
Along with John Lennon imagine a world without religion. Imagine: there was no suicide bombings, bombings of September 11 in new York, explosions of 7 July in London, the Crusades, witch hunts, the “gunpowder plot”, the partition of India, the Israeli-Palestinian wars, the extermination of Serbs, Croats, Muslims; the persecution of Jews for the “hristoubiystve”, the Northern Irish “conflict”, “honour killings”, there dressed in glittering costumes, shaking their manes of a TV Evangelist, wrecking the pockets of unsuspecting suckers (“Give it all to the bone to please the Lord”). Imagine was not blowing up ancient statues of the Taliban public beheading of blasphemers, whips, polowymi female flesh because of its narrow strip is opened other people’s eyes.
Richard Dawkins, the God delusion
We suffer spiritual and cultural paralysis, we are not able to look into the face of infinity, to accept their peripheral position and to find their true place in the structure of nature. We treat their planet like we have somewhere to go. The very practice of science is already a glimmer of sanity. However, it is not enough to adopt these ideas mind, while we cling to a spiritual ideology, which is not only divorced from nature, but in many ways despises all natural and natural. We can save skillfully woven the fabric of life, only omitting the scientific discoveries through the heart.
Carl Sagan, Science in search of God
In the course of development of science, starting with the famous trial against Galilei, again and again expressed the view that scientific truth cannot be brought into harmony with the religious interpretation of the world. But I must say thatI am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt scientific truth in his field, I still never possible to reject the content of religious thinking as simply part of surmounted stages of human consciousness — part, from which in the future will still have to give. So throughout my life I constantly had to think about the ratio of these two spiritual worlds, because I have never had any doubts about the reality of what they point to.